Seeking paragons — and touchstones — of Philadelphia ideals

 SHARE’s large community garden, Nice Roots Farm, provides locally-grown fresh produce to their immediate neighbors in North Philadelphia.

SHARE’s large community garden, Nice Roots Farm, provides locally-grown fresh produce to their immediate neighbors in North Philadelphia.

The art gallery at Temple University is asking all of Philadelphia: What are the fundamental ideals of this city, and who best upholds them?

The Morris Animal Refuge, for example, believes the measurement of a society is how it treats its animals. Those at the shelter have the document to prove it.

In a video posted on, director Jim DePaul explains the Philadelphia shelter’s founding charter, written by Elizabeth Morris in 1889, established the fundamental concepts of humane shelters everywhere.

“Why shouldn’t Philadelphia’s ideals encompass animals as well as people?” he said.

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The Morris shelter is just one of 25 nonprofit candidates vying for votes as part of Restoring Ideals, a project of Temple Contemporary, WHYY, and the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts. Temple Contemporary’s advisory board boiled the best of Philadelphia down to three characteristics: tolerance, equality, and independence.

The public is now encouraged to vote for the organization that best represents those ideals. The top 10 vote-getters will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at Temple Contemporary, the gallery of Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

“It’s really about connecting present-day Philadelphians to think about the ideals with which we may have begun, in terms of a city, and connecting those ideals to organizations that continue this good work,” said Sarah Biemiller, assistant director of Temple Contemporary.

Each of the 10 winning organizations will choose one object from the archive, or filing cabinet, or closet, or reception area wall that reflects their history and needs some tender loving care.

The Philadelphia Folklore Project has a collection of propaganda posters comprising a visual a history of Philadelphia political activism; Project HOME has a silk-screened T-shirt that supported its first neighborhood homeless shelter; and Spiral Q Puppet Theater has puppet frozen in the act of eating a row home (Spiral Q has been twice removed from its previous homes).

The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts has assembled a team of material conservators — specializing in paper, textile, wood and metal — to work in the gallery of Temple Contemporary. The public will be able to watch as they stabilize the objects against the ravages of time.

“Of course there are limitations, but I’ve worked in this field for 25 years and have seen some pretty incredible miracles happen,” said Ingrid Bogel, director of the Conservation Center. “Objects come in and you think there may be no hope for this, but often we can bring things back from the brink of disaster.”

After the voting period closes Aug. 5 and after the objects are treated by conservators, they will be exhibited in the gallery next spring.

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